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Review of Orion 15x63 Mini Giant

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#1 Obx

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 04:11 PM

When a member here clued me to Orion's Labor Day sale on the 15x63 Mini Giant, I decided not to pass it up. I ordered using Orion's website and the binoculars were shipped out the next day by a name-brand carrier. They arrived a few days later.

My first impression was similar to that of showing up for a blind date all full of optimism and then wishing I'd gotten the flu. The outside package gave me pause to try to remember Orion's return policy. Beat-up would be too generous a description. After its trek across the continent, the large box was somewhat crunched on several sides and the shipping tape was barely holding the top flaps together. It took only a few seconds to release the remaining tape and open the flaps. The sight that greeted me was not encouraging. Inside was a smaller, thin cardboard box labeled Orion Binoculars that was surrounded by a few air cushion bags. Unfortunately, too few air cushion bags to keep the inner container from moving around. I feared the binoculars had had an eventful journey. Inside this second box was a hard leatherette case with fold-over flap and latch protecting the binoculars. In my opinion this case is better than most of the soft cases supplied nowadays. It has rings on the sides for attachment of a strap. However, the strap supplied for the case is very thin plastic and I chucked it in the bin.

The binoculars themselves look quite substantial, though not as huge as some of its breed appear in advertisements. The 15x63 Mini Giant measures 9" high and weighs about 2 1/2 lbs. The rubber armor coating is smooth and consistent in application and color (deep gray) and it is comfortable to the touch. I have slightly smaller than average hands for an adult but the binoculars are very comfortably held. Included in the package is an Orion logo cloth strap 32 mm wide that easily attaches to the underside of the binoculars. The strap is adjustable only at the ends. I like cloth straps and would prefer one with more adjustment like those Celestron used to provide, but this strap is still attractive and adequate. I was taught in the Navy to wear binoculars high up on the chest where they can quickly be moved to the eyes, and the Orion strap allows this positioning. The push-on lens caps provided are thin, cheap plastic (not rubberized). Both objective lens caps stay on, but one eyepiece cap just falls off. I prefer a rain guard and hope to be able to find one to fit over the eyepieces.

IPD is well marked by a scale and its adjustment is smooth. The fully multi-coated glass in both the objective lenses and eyepieces appears deep green with just a hint of violet. The binoculars are clearly marked as being manufactured in Japan, just as Orion advertises. The eyecups are the soft rubber roll-down type. I am quite used to this type and don't find them a problem. I didn't measure eye relief, but I found it comfortable with or without my glasses. It is specified as 19mm and I would guess usable eye relief is about 16mm. Wearing glasses, I was still able to see the entire field with the eyecups rolled down. The advertised true field of view is 3.7 degrees and this appears about right, as Orion's three belt stars comfortably fit into the field of view. The apparent field of view then must be about 56 degrees, similar to that of other binoculars I own. It is not wide-angle, but it is not tunnel vision either.

Hand-holding the Mini Giant binoculars is not difficult. They are so light that I easily kept them quite still during daytime viewing. They really aren't any harder to hold for long periods than my Bausch and Lomb Mk 28 US Navy 7x50 binoculars. I likely will use the Mini Giant frequently during daytime for checking on boating activity on the ocean and Roanoke Sound.

The focusing wheel is wide and is easily reached by my fingers. Focusing is smooth, though the wheel has rather long travel (I don't find this bad). Also, viewing objects at varying distances requires re-focusing. For instance, objects that are about 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 yards away will not be in sharp focus at the same time—each jump in object distance requires re-focusing. Moreover, focusing precisely at any distance takes a little practice, as sharp focus demands a little tweaking. Not having any high power binoculars before, I don't know if this is standard for most binoculars in this class. Because of the need for re-focusing and the long focus wheel travel, I would not recommend this model for birding. I can't imagine trying to follow a flight of Pelicans with these. The Mini Giant would probably do for viewing a school of dolphins, however.

Diopter adjustment is very smooth, but it does not lock and it is easy to jar the desired setting out of place. The diopter markings on the right eyepiece are non-highlighted, raised marks—very difficult to see at night or at any time by my far-sighted eyes. I much would have preferred a locking diopter ring or at least markings easier to see.

Viewing in the daytime is very clear; though, as I've said, significant changes in target distance require re-focusing. Collimation seems to be right on and unaffected by the journey across the country. Viewing at twilight, the Mini Giant optics appear as bright as those of my Celestron Ultima 8x42. I don't know if this says more about the lenses or my 60+ year-old eyes. I looked at building edges, roofs and slender objects against bright backgrounds and didn't notice any chromatic aberration during daylight.

The Orion Mini Giant attached quickly and flawlessly to the Orion Paragon Plus parallelogram mount, as I would have expected. No adapter is required, as the Paragon Plus comes with a sturdy L-mount. The Mini Giant balanced very well against the mount's counterweight (the Paragon Plus is rated to hold up to 5 lbs.). This combination seems perfect and provides a steady viewing platform. When I purposely bumped the Paragon Plus, it only took a few seconds for the image to stabilize.

I took delivery of these binoculars in Michigan, where I was visiting family. The area there is rural but light polluted from a medium sized city of 120,000 people about 7 miles distant. On moonless nights constellations are discernable but with the naked eye the Milky Way is just hinted at. I've become inured to faint objects being unobtainable here. Alas, upon my return to Nags Head, I face even worse light pollution at the coast.

I'm not an avid astronomer. The ol' Meade 2045D S-C hasn't been out of the closet for months. But I'll try to convey my observations about the Mini-Giant. I picked a night with clear skies and a waxing moon just past first quarter. I was able to focus stars to a pinpoint and keep them there. Sharpness seemed very good to about 70% out from center, but then deteriorated rapidly until stars were just a blur at the edge of the field. Bumping the eyecups intentionally with my head did not change the focus. I was able to bring the moon to a sharp image. Not unexpectedly, there was a thin band of yellowish-green color around the rim—a little more yellow at top; more green at the bottom. Overall, this was not unpleasing. Jupiter, in Sagittarius, focused as a bright round ball but showed no detail. There was some very slight violet chromatic aberration. Four visible moons stood out like pinpoints.

Staying in Sagittarius, I easily spotted M22 just a hop, skip and a jump west of Jupiter. I did not find M4 in Scorpious. Taking the Mini Giant off the Paragon Plus mount, I found M8, the Lagoon Nebula, without difficulty. It was clear as a bell; its so-called "vapor" was clearly visible. Hand holding the Mini Giant on this target was not difficult, although to better enjoy the view I would recommend re-mounting the binoculars. Likewise, M7 was quite beautiful—its pinpointed stars filling about a sixth of the field of view. This was relatively easy to view hand-held, too. Swerving to the north-east, I quickly scanned the sky until the Andromeda Galaxy popped into view. Some elongation was evident, but M32 and M110 were not visible—not surprising considering the light pollution.

The next morning I took the Mini Giant for a brief spin outside. M42, the Orion Nebula, looked great with obvious nebulosity. I couldn't really try to resolve the Trapezium, because I again was hand-holding the binoculars and I was surrounded by two big, frisky dogs. I should have taken out the parallelogram mount and put in the dogs.

Overall, I'm happy with the Orion 15x63 Mini Giant. I think it is a precision binocular well suited for many uses. One reason I chose it is my hope that the smaller aperture will help observing in light polluted areas. Sure, there are features I wish it did or didn't have, but life is all about compromises. Considering what it does and that Orion offered a 25% discount, I think it was a good choice.

Thanks for reading,

Obx

#2 viperbob

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 04:17 PM

Excellent Review. Your quite right, compromiese are the way to review. Best of luck with them, as they will last for years.........
VB

#3 KennyJ

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 06:03 PM

Obx ,

Thank you for providing me with a most enjoyable few minutes of reading about a model which has fascinated me for years , but which I have never seen in the flesh , as it were , nor ever learnt as much about during the reading of a single review .

Clear skies
Kenny

#4 Andy42420

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 06:16 PM

Congrats on a nice review, enjoyed reading it.

Andy

#5 carlcat

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 06:38 PM

Thanks for that very comprehensive review. I also bought the same binoculars a week ago after getting a link from who I believe is the same guy you got yours from.(thank you Halleluyah). Yes, they were shipped kinda oddly in a large box with a small token bubble wrap that did nothing but allow the bins to jump around but the binoculars were perfectly collimated as far as I could tell. I concur with your review and I like mine just as much as you do if not more. However, I did see an acceptable amount of color(thin purple lines) during the daytime on white roof eves during the day time so if anyone wants to purchase these you might want to keep that in mind. However, they really are a joy to hold, light and fit nicely in the hand and I have giant hands. I recently got back from lake Tahoe which had very dark skies and I saw tons of stars and fuzzies but I'm basically a moon and planets observer so I really didn't know all the fuzzies I saw but I did see lots of them and that was fun. I liked mine so much I'm now considering the Garrett 20x80 ultralites as my next pair. Geeeze binoculars can get addicting. Best of luck with your new binoculars. Carl

#6 Obx

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 07:02 PM

I also bought the same binoculars a week ago after getting a link from who I believe is the same guy you got yours from.(thank you Halleluyah).


Carl:

Yes, I believe it was Halleluyah. He did us both a service.

#7 hallelujah

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Posted 09 September 2008 - 09:41 PM

Another very good plug for Japanese optics. :grin: I'm very happy for the both of you. Glad that I could be of assistance to each of you. :)
Even happier that both binoculars survived the trip.

#8 Mark9473

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Posted 10 September 2008 - 12:01 AM

Having just bought the same binocular - see here for my own impressions about it - I truly enjoyed reading this review.

The only area where my experience so far is a bit different, is on the dioptre setting on the right eyepiece. I find this setting to be just stiff enough so as to not be affected by a little bump.
I also don't have a problem with the dipotre markings - I can still see the little white dot in the dark where they have to line up against, and just feel the raised markings with my fingernail.

I'd be interested to know if you also noticed the asymmetric edge-sharpness performance.

#9 Obx

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Posted 13 September 2008 - 06:54 PM


The only area where my experience so far is a bit different, is on the dioptre setting on the right eyepiece. I find this setting to be just stiff enough so as to not be affected by a little bump.
I also don't have a problem with the dipotre markings - I can still see the little white dot in the dark where they have to line up against, and just feel the raised markings with my fingernail.


The biggest problem I have with the diopter is it getting jarred when taking the binoculars out of the case outside at night. But it is no more troublesome in that respect than my Ultimas. I am just used to the firmer diopters of my IF binoculars.

Obx

#10 hallelujah

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Posted 13 September 2008 - 07:07 PM


The biggest problem I have with the diopter is it getting jarred when taking the binoculars out of the case outside at night.

Obx


When I put binoculars in the case I make sure that the neck strap is resting on top of the binoculars. When I take them out I put the strap around my neck first and that leaves two hands free to remove the case without making contact with the eyepieces.

#11 Obx

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Posted 15 September 2008 - 03:50 PM

When I put binoculars in the case I make sure that the neck strap is resting on top of the binoculars. When I take them out I put the strap around my neck first and that leaves two hands free to remove the case without making contact with the eyepieces.


Thanks for the tip.






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